'Young Marine' Faces Expulsion For Replica Rifles

Lawmakers Seek To Revise Statute

For Marie Morrow, the equipment left in the back seat of her car was for an upcoming competition. She said she never expected it would lead to her being suspended from school -- or possibly expelled.

"I take responsibility, it was my mistake," Morrow told 7NEWS. She left three drill team "practice" rifles in plain view of passing students last week.

Morrow, who says she has a 3.5 grade point average, is a member of the Douglas County Young Marines. She said she spins the practice rifles for the organization’s drill team.

Staff members at Cherokee Trail High School were alerted by concerned students who thought they might be real, said a Cherry Creek Schools spokeswoman.

"They went inside. They were anxious. They were frightened," school district spokeswoman Tustin Amole said.

The mock rifles are made of wood, with duct tape, to resemble a real rifle.

Amole explained the school district’s policy mirrors state and federal laws about weapons in schools, and calls for "mandatory expulsion" when possessing a dangerous weapon in any school building.

A student conduct handbook states a dangerous weapon includes "a firearm, whether loaded or unloaded, or a firearm facsimile that could reasonably be mistaken for an actual firearm."

"You have to remember these laws were implemented in the years after Columbine," Amole said, and added the school was left with no choice.

"We follow the state law," Amole said.

"I understand exactly why the policy is there," Morrow said on the east steps of the state capitol Monday.

Chris Proctor, commanding officer of the Douglas County Young Marines, praised Morrow's commitment to the program and school.

"For her to have to go through this is completely insane," Proctor said.

The Young Marine Organization is the official youth program of the U.S. Marine Corps and focused on drug reduction and leadership, Proctor explained.

Morrow, dressed in her drill team uniform, visited the capitol to visit with lawmakers about the possibility of changing the state statute relating to weapons in schools.

"It should be up to the discretion of the school board to say, 'OK, there's no intent, it was just a mistake,'" Morrow said with her mom, brother, and friends looking on.

Morrow, who plans to attend the United States Merchant Marine Academy, met briefly with and gained support from several legislators on the hill.

Sen. Scott Renfroe, (R-Weld County,) said the 17-year-old was the topic of discussion among fellow senators.

"We need to look at this and add some common sense to our statute," Renfroe said.

Reps. Cindy Acree, (R-Aurora,) and Frank McNulty, (R-Highlands Ranch,) held an impromptu meeting with Morrow and her family inside the capitol.

Acree told 7NEWS she doesn't fault the school district for enforcing state laws.

"We just have to make sure it's not overbearing for our administrators and students, so they can still be kids," Acree said.

She explained she may seek to amend the state statute with a late bill during the current legislative session.

Acree added she is also writing a letter to colleagues "so we can support (Marie) before she goes to her hearing."

Amole said an expulsion hearing will be held within 10 days of a student suspension. An expulsion officer will make a recommendation to the superintendent, who will rule on the length of expulsion.

Morrow said she her expulsion hearing is Feb. 20.

"I'm just hoping I can go back to school and graduate with my class and take my AP tests and all that," she said.